On March 1, 2021, the Arkansas-based Marshallese Educational Initiative (MEI), in partnership with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF), Reverse the Trend (RTT), and the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), co-hosted an event to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the United States’ largest nuclear test, Castle Bravo, at Bikini Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
From 8:00 - 9:07 PM Eastern Standard Time — or for 67 minutes — members of the Marshallese community, Marshallese youth in Arkansas, researchers, and activists congregated over Zoom to remember the victims of nuclear testing in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), as well as to discuss the future of nuclear testing more broadly.
“While the nuclear testing program [in the RMI] ended six decades ago, the wounds are evidently still fresh, and we will continue to remember the atrocities perpetrated on our people and islands,” said moderator Benetick Kabua Maddison, MEI Project Specialist for Youth, Climate, and Nuclear Issues, at the beginning of the event.
The online program featured several distinguished speakers, including Amb. Amatlain Kabua, Permanent Representative of the RMI to the UN; Eldon Alik, Consul General of the Marshall Islands to Springdale, Arkansas; Ivana Hughes, Director of the K=1 Project at Columbia University’s Center for Nuclear Studies; Dr. Tilman Ruff, Co-President of IPPNW; and Christian Ciobanu, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator at NAPF. The program also featured an art exhibition and musical performance by Marshallese youth residing in and around Arkansas.
The annually-held ‘Nuclear Victims Remembrance Day’ event is one of MEI’s many programs seeking to promote “cultural, intellectual, and historical awareness of the Marshallese people” and facilitate “intercultural dialogue [between the United States and RMI] to foster positive social change.” But MEI, based in the Springdale area — where more than 12,000 Marshallese-Americans reside — also offers direct services to Marshallese-Americans and to agencies that serve Marshallese clients, including public schools and healthcare providers.
Most recently, since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Arkansas in early March 2020, the organization has collected and distributed more than $300,000 worth of food, personal protective equipment, and cleaning supplies, as well as funeral, utility, and rental assistance, to Marshallese community members in the Springdale area. Many of these members are at increased risk from COVID-19 as well as other diseases, including Type II diabetes, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B — which some scientific studies have revealed to be the result of American nuclear tests such as Castle Bravo.
Angus Lam is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He recently graduated with High Honors from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he majored in Political Science and Sociology.